Korea’s apartment rental system is very unique and finding an apartment in Seoul may be difficult. And the first place you might think of is Craigslist Korea, which is great for room shares, but of the apartments listed are targeted at foreigners at inflated prices. Also, there aren’t enough listings on Craigslist to accurately reflect prices and availability of housing in Korea. Looking for an apartment in Seoul can be difficult, especially as a foreigner, but these 3 steps will help you find a great new apartment.
Step 1: Find out where in Seoul you want to live
Seoul is very large. Don’t waste your time by trying to search all over the city. First, decide on the neighborhood that works best for you. The number one factor for most people is proximity to work. Taking an hour or more to commute on 2호선 (Seoul’s line number 2) is inconvenient. Look for straight shots with no transfers (or even walking distance) to your place of work. Being close to popular downtown areas is also quite convenient.
Step 2: Check out how much it costs
Once you’ve found an ideal place to live in Seoul, you’ll have to check and see if it is in your price range.. The easiest and fastest way to do this is through the internet. Register for Naver’s Peter Pan real estate cafe, the largest real estate “cafe” on Naver. It will allow you to search apartments by area, room, apartment types, and many other ways. This will allow you to see if you can afford living in the high-rise looking over the Han.
Tip 1: Don’t be afraid to call the numbers on the website to setup a viewing, but don’t forget to first consider Tip 2.
Tip 2: Some areas lack in types of housing (i.e. areas with high concentrations of families may not have many places for the single housing).
Step 3: Go to as many real estate agents as possible
Now that you have a general idea of where you want to live and what you can afford, get your walking shoes ready. Physically going to all the real estate agents in the area has several benefits:
1. Some landlords deal exclusively with one real estate agency.
2. The internet is great, but not everyone posts their listings on the same sites.
3. You get access to new openings before they hit the internet.
4. You can tell them exactly what you want and they’ll find something for you.
Head into anywhere you see a 부동산 (Real Estate) awning and simply state the price range you’re looking for. A common way to express this is to just say the numbers for key money deposit and monthly rent (1000/90) — [not sure what key money is? click here to find out]. They also typically want to know your move in date. Other things you can request are: types of housing, furnished housing, more specific areas (right next to your work, for example), parking spots, etc.
Once they know the basic information, they’ll take you to see apartments right away. Don’t forget to ask general questions like where the supermarkets are or if they allow pets. Also, remember to ask if there are any other fees on top of the rent (i.e. 관리비 – maintenance fees). Decisions are made in a day or two and sometimes even on the same day.
Tip: Some agents will pressure you to sign right then and there because they don’t want to lose your business.
Time to Sign!
Congratulations! You’ve found your dream apartment in Korea. The last step is to sign. There is a lot of Korean involved in this entire process, so if your Korean is limited, having a Korean-speaking friend will be helpful. Or you can go for a service like stayes.com, which handles all the Korean, requires smaller security deposits and protects tenants with contracts.
However you choose to get your own apartment in Korea, the experience is empowering. And if you’re able to get this task done, you can probably survive just about anything as an expat in Korea.
Essential Reading: The rental system in Korea is very different. Click here to see how it works.